After Stephen Curry pulled up an absurd distance from the basket and watched one of the three heat-seeking, 3-point missiles he fired off in overtime fall through the basket, he turned and made sure everyone there and watching around the world knew what he was thinking.
"I'm here!" he shouted.
Then: "I'm back!" And again: "I'm back!"
Curry was indeed back. After suffering a sprained MCL in the Golden State's first-round victory over Houston, the reigning MVP was given the all-clear to return from a two-week absence for Game 4 of the Warriors' Western Conference Semifinal against the Trail Blazers in Portland. He responded by scoring an NBA record 17 points in overtime alone on 6-for-7 shooting. He was not some hobbled fraction of himself, nor some limited decoy. Here was Stephen Curry, finishing with 40 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in 36 minutes to lead the Warriors to a 132-125 win, lifting them to a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
It was fitting that Curry's return to the court, and his latest stunning performance, coincided with him being named the NBA's Most Valuable Player for a second straight season Tuesday. The theme fits nicely into the framework that has defined Curry's meteoric rise to the top of the sport, namely his ability to consistently surpass any and all expectations.
It started with college recruitment, when he wound up at Davidson because his father's alma mater, Virginia Tech, didn't want him. It carried over to the 2009 NBA draft, when Curry fell to No. 7 amid more doubts about his ability. It continued when the early years of Curry's career with Golden State were marred by ankle injuries.
And many questioned whether Curry should come back at all Monday night, wondering if it wouldn't be better to hold him out until Game 5 to make sure his knee was truly ready to go. It turned out that Golden State needed every ounce of Curry's greatness just to emerge from Game 4 with a victory.
Despite coming off the bench behind Shaun Livingston, Curry was pressed into full point-guard duties when Livingston got ejected. It could have been too much, too soon. But it didn't matter. Another expectation shredded by a 40-point night.
Now there already is talk about next season, about how the Warriors will have to take a step back from an NBA record season, and how Curry could never possibly replicate a season that's this good again in his career.
Maybe, after a decade of watching Curry repeatedly surpass the basketball world's expectations, altering perceptions of him from a question mark and thrusting himself into all-time great discussions, it's time to stop assuming he can't do anything.
Steph Curry has climbed to the peak of his sport. As he stands atop the summit, after all he's shown the world, would it surprise anyone if he took flight and soared even higher?
— Washington Post